The quorum: Commissioners Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt (6C02, chair), Scott Price (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Chris Miller (6C05), Heather Edelman (6C06).
Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. Presentation
Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. (I-At Large) appeared before the June meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C to discuss the work he has done on the District’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year. He said that he pushed four things for inclusion in the budget and was successful on three of them. The first was free transportation for adult learners, allowing them to ride Metro without charge, as do other DC students. White said adult students had told him that one of the biggest roadblocks to finishing their education is the cost of transportation.
White has worked to add four new employees to the Office of the Tenant Advocate, and two more positions to the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs. The latter assists persons returning from federal facilities and prisons. White said the office does not have the personnel to provide assistance in the manner it would like, and this budget includes funding for two caseworkers and to develop a strategic plan.
White pushed for funding for the Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program legislated by the DC Council last year, but never funded. The program is intended to help individuals with convictions on their record start their own businesses. White said that this program was the only one of his interests that was not included in the 2018 budget.
White said that during his nine months as councilmember he has become interested in the facilities situation at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. Parents have told him that the list of prioritization for renovation created by District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) did not meet their needs. He has also heard students describe the need for improvement. Together with Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), White worked to accelerate the funding of the school’s modernization. Planning will now begin in fiscal year 2018.
White said that he sought funding to help people out of homelessness. He noted that the DC Council had allotted significant funding for transitional housing and developed a mechanism to improve reforms to the Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The funding is connected to minors, so that if TANF recipients are not meeting government requirements, children are not losing out because of what their parents do or do not do.
Legislation in the Works
White is working on a bill related to commercial building stock. He noted that the commercial market in DC has a vacancy rate of between 11 and 12 percent. At the same time, there is a significant need for affordable housing. He has introduced a bill to do a study to discuss how government can partner with building owners to convert underused office space into affordable housing.
He also introduced a bill that would grant a scholarship to the top quarter of graduates from DC schools. This, he said, would attract top students to the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), which would strengthen its reputation. The bill would also provide loan-forgiveness to students who want to attend UDC but are prevented by student loan debt.
Transportation and Public Space Committee
A proposed traffic control plan around construction near the new Department of Justice building at 150 M St. NE was discussed. Commissioner Edelman had noticed signs announcing 14 months of westbound lane closures on M Street NE from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday, slated to begin on Monday, June 12. Edelman contacted the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and inquired why it had ignored a statute requiring 30 days’ notice of this type of plan. The closure did not begin on Monday because, despite the signs, the plan had not yet been approved by DDOT. The architects of the building presented the plans to the ANC, but the ANC moved to oppose the plan and to write a letter objecting to the content and any authorization of the plan without notice to the ANC. The motion passed unanimously.
Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee
An historical preservation application concept for 501 C St. SE was discussed. The applicant, MGM, wants to modify the building to become the Washington office for a political-lobbying staff of 10 employees.
At a previous meeting of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Committee, neighbors had voiced concern about the use of a paved alley space adjacent to the building that they say would be used for parking. Revised plans showed fencing separating this area from the yard, reducing concerns that MGM would use the space as parking for events. The applicant said that employees would use public transit, and attendees at functions would have to use Uber or Lyft. Neighbors and ANC commissioners also expressed fear that the renovated deck space, which Commissioner Price estimated at between 600 and 900 square feet, could host large parties that would become a noise hazard. The applicant responded that functions would be small, limited to 20-30 guests. The commissioners raised other concerns, including the installation of an elevator shaft rising above the roof and the application of stucco to the façade of the 1920 additions.
While the applicant expressed a desire to work with the community, neighbors reacted with skepticism, saying that MGM had not reached out in the past. The commissioners unanimously opposed the application.
The commissioners voted 4-2 to support the concept behind an historic preservation application (HPA) for five townhouses at 525 A St. SE. They would be built by Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Neighbors complained that they had not been consulted on the project and said that the church was not a member of the neighborhood. One neighbor was concerned that the townhouses would change the appearance of the street.
Many concerns on the issue of parking were voiced. The church currently uses valet-style parking to triple-park their lot during services, but part of that parking lot would be used for the new townhouses.
The pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church said that while it was true that the church had originated in Virginia, about half the members now live within walking distance of the church, suggesting that parking is not in great demand. He also explained how the townhouses are intended for members being trained to start new churches, and that these individuals already live in rentals throughout the community.
With regard the parking issue, Commissioner Eckenwiler said that the problem was not the buildings but the broken regulatory system for parking in the District. He said these concerns had been heard, but parking was not an HPA issue. Commissioner Healey agreed, saying the parking issue could serve as a good starting point for the church to communicate with the neighborhood and community.
The next meeting of ANC 6C is on July 12 at 7:00 p.m. at The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE.